The Blind Leading the Blind by 1914
As a Happy Veteran’s Day from Death Comes Lifting, to all of my fellow Americans, comrades in all things heavy metal, punk rock, and horror all over the world, any and all countries involved in the “Great War”, here’s to celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the Armistice (November 11th 1918) with the brand new WWI-themed record; The Blind Leading the Blind from Ukraine’s own 1914! Spinning a blackened death metal record narrating the atrocities of the war and recounting the bloodshed may seem like an odd, somewhat twisted, way to celebrate… yeah? Well, we wouldn’t want it any other way and neither would the history connoisseurs and extreme metal scholars that compromise this militant band, 1914. Released on this fine Veteran’s Day, The Blind Leading The Blind, 1914’s sophomore record, continues to exhume the heavy metal while exploring even heavier themes and narratives that make this record a special journey through the recesses of our bloodstained history.
Setting the proverbial record straight, so to speak, vocalist and band mastermind Ditmar Kumar is pretty much a World War I fiend. He is very much a scholar of the war and his mission is not to glamorize the horrific events that took place during that time, but rather to illuminate its history, pay tribute to our fallen heroes, and tell stories via his preferred artistic pathway: blistering extreme metal. Sounds like a solid day in history class to me. My point being, he and his band KNOW THIER SHIT…And the authenticity and legitimacy of the record is simply undeniable. It’s not often that you get an excellent sounding and instrumented death metal record that is equal parts intelligent, meaningful, and sophisticated as this one; if you take the time to separate the artistically fueled gruesome lyrics and learn from the themes and messages presented within them. With the eerie and creepy old war propaganda jingle intro “War In” leading into, oh, just a light-hearted detailing of the deadliest battle in American military history; I think it’s rather clear 1914 are here to make a statement. And with an album title like “The Blind Leading The Blind,” we can use some context clues to gather the statement will not be riddled with puppy dogs and rainbows. But, that is absolutely not to say that it doesn’t sound fucking awesome… It does.
Being as I’ve already referred to their style in a couple different ways, I do have to address their uniqueness in the way they seem to use aspects from all ranges of extreme metal as ammunition to their arsenal of musical firepower and heavy artillery. Blending elements of death metal, black metal, post-metal, and sometimes even thrash metal together like a group of evil Ukrainan alchemists is pretty impressive, especially to an extreme metal fan like me that thinks he’s heard just about everything… 1914 prove theres always more to learn and be impressed with. The epic and heavy crashing of the thunderous percussion is far from latent throughout the record, staying very true to the death metal roots of things, and plummeting through the record and crushing bones much like the German war tanks they growl about. While the guitar section does a phenomenal job keeping in time with the crushing rhythm while also frequently honing back in on the haunting, melodic side of things. “AV7 Mephisto” does just that, in all its wrecking 8-plus minute glory; from the epic and heavy opening power chords complete with unnerving surgical noises, through the thunderous double bass and thrashing vocals, the guitar often provides a lurking melody that thickens the deadly atmosphere. Imagery is also something 1914 use to their advantage, musically portraying the deadly images of war and imposing threats of thanks trudging up a mountain and taking countless lives with it, is not hard to imagine while hearing the sounds spewed forth from 1914. Especially lyrically and vocally, Kumar uses his mixed bag of extreme metal styles to his advantage, as we are mostly able to articulate what he’s saying when the blackened thrash - type vocals are employed. This may sound “whatever” but being able to generally understand the vocals is a solid move on their part here, as opposed to other forms of death metal where that is absolutely the wrong move. The narration and lyrical intricacies of these pieces would be somewhat worthless if they were completely lost in guttural tone or buried under frantic instrumentation. Obviously they are more than aware of that as their arrangements and shifting through styles and melodies serves them, and their songs, very well. Not to mention their ability to shift through styles just provides a refreshing sound to their unique concept and music.
That’s certainly not to say that they should be classified as “melodic”, because the next track, “High Wood. 75 Acres Of Hell” kicks into full on furious, throat-ripping, ammunition-expelling, overdrive… and doesn’t let up til the end. I can’t help but think 1914 included this track, at this point in the record, just to kind of make sure we’re awake; much like our old history teachers slapping their ruler on a desk to make sure we’re paying attention. Only this is much, much, more enjoyable. And I’ve learned more from heavy metal than I ever did from school… but that’s a subject for another writing entirely. Interestingly enough, though, this song (as well as others on this record) compelled me to do a little bit of research on the battle detailed within the sonic brutality of it; and it gave me a better understanding of not only this record but the subjects in general. I think that speaks to the sheer power of music and how simply cool it is that a Ukrainian extreme metal act can teach you a thing or two about a thing or two. And just further proves that heavy metal does not (always) compel one to carry out the Devil’s work… but rather open a history book. Death metal: 1. Stupid, lame, white people: 0. Suck it. ANYWAY we’re moving on…
The record progresses with more deadly battle hymns, as one would expect by this point. “Beat The Bastards” bleeds in much of the same fast and heavy vein, with grim vibes and a wickedly screeching solo that is absolutely the best on the record. The interesting arrangements and legitimate musicianship are something that’s not lost, as they are still churning out quality material all the way through. Not to mention, they employ many sample sounds of old war movies, songs, and realistic battle that do a cool job breaking up the sonic madness and further induce creepy atmosphere of this whole thing while making the listening experience that much more interesting. And as solid as their musicianship is, they are not here to beat you over the head with technicality or pure blast beats. There is something to be said for their ability to deliver with simple(ish) riffs and just solid metal playing. It’s really nothing fancy but in it’s own way, it works much better than anything in the technical death metal realm. Shit, the even have ex-Bolt Thrower vocalist Dave Ingram on their track “Passchenhell,” and it don’t get much raw than that. Furthering their extreme metal exercises and continuing to expand our knowledge through carrier war pigeons and Nazi storm troopers all the way to the closing, absolutely epic conclusion, “100 Day Offensive.” Clocking in at over 10 minutes of beautifully composed material on such a horrific subject, this plays like a post-metal epic that will rival any extreme metal band that has ever tried to pull something of this caliber off. Weaving in and out of clean playing to epic, almost symphonic, metal territory and painting melody and deadly as the mustard gas it’s detailing atmosphere… this is the best possible way to end this record.
The Blind Leading The Blind proves 1914 to not be just any other extreme metal band tackling historic subject matter. This stands out as a powerful and intelligent extreme metal record that I personally feel the world could use a little bit more of. It explores the themes of not just death and war, but offers an introspective look at culture, injustice, society, and all that good stuff. But, if nothing else, it’s a hard-hitting and refreshing take on extreme metal that is undoubtedly worth listening to… even if history is not one of your particular interests. Oh, and definitely listen to it LOUD. You’re welcome.
Gym Rating: 5/5
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